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Frank Lampard vs. Graeme Le Saux

Frank Lampard vs. Graeme Le Saux

He can make a strong case for being Chelsea`s best-ever left back, in 2 stints at Chelsea. As an England player, he scored a memorable volleyed goal against Brazil in 1995 (er, in the Umbro Cup). That should be enough for most players to stake their case as a legend.

But Graeme Le Saux has other strings to his bow as one of football`s most articulate sons in England. It is interesting to contrast one Chelsea player with another, in the week when Frank Lampard revealed that he was a supporter of the Conservative party.

For the record, Frank`s declarations were that "I had a really good chat with David. As a footballer I don't want to get involved with the campaigning thing but I am a Tory and I really like David Cameron." Churchillian stuff from a midfielder who has long since fallen over the edge when it comes to taking himself far too seriously.

At the age of 28, Frank Lampard has already written his first autobiography. Few people have read it (you can probably find it in the bargain bins in most Waterstones), and the most memorable review of this book is that which will definitely not be printed on the sleeve, from Joey Barton. "I played shit, here`s my book" is how Barton summed up the tome published immediately after England exited a tournament and Frank`s book seemed like a lengthy and self-indulgent justification for his below-average performances.

Let`s not be misunderstood: Frank Lampard is a first-class athlete and an extraordinary Chelsea player. We wish him a long and successful Chelsea career. However, the aspect of Frank that is becoming more and more irritating is the conceit that he is something more. Is he a role model off the pitch, someone who can give us all lessons on anything, whether party politics, education, immigration or eating vegetables? We say this as Frank has offered his opinions on all these matters. As well as his declarations that he is a Tory, he is always banging on about his education at a Public School in Romford, which clearly marks him out as a budding member of MENSA. In a recent interview he also revealed his simplistic views on the influx of Polish labourers to the building trade. As for eating vegetables, well, we know his involvement in the advertising campaign of a well-known retailer. Actually we`ll let him off the hook for that one, it`s a worthwhile cause.

The point is, Frank is a footballer, and he would do well not to consider that, as a highly-pampered sportsman living in a protective bubble, maybe he has little to offer in the way of advice of the rest of society. He should also recognise that his trade, ultimately, is pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things.

All this is in contrast to Graeme Le Saux. Famously, Graeme did have to fight against prejudice. A trip to Amsterdam with Ken Monkou to attend a football training course soon saw Graeme the butt of 'Camping with Ken` jokes. These took a silly turn when it was revealed that Graeme`s choice of daily reading is The Guardian. Since Graeme had the brains to read an intelligent newspaper (for the record, Frank`s daily papers are The Sun and the Daily Mail), he was, in the eyes of his fellow professionals, a homosexual, and 'accusation` that sounds unbelievable to anyone with a modicum of intelligence.

The taunting soon transcended good-natured ribbing into homophobia. Not that this made it any more or less acceptable, but in Graeme`s case it was all the more crass in that Graeme isn`t gay.

Homophobia is often considered the 'acceptable prejudice` in football. Whilst the game has done much to stamp out racism, anti-semitism and religious bigotry, whereas homophobia is concerned, English football might as well be North Korea (according to a simile used in a memorable article in The Guardian on the subject).

Graeme`s book, 'Left Back` (which is published this month), relates that he received abuse from even that most metrosexual of players, David Beckham (a charge that Beckham`s people have strongly denied). If Beckham, who is quite comfortable with his status as gay icon, was going to abuse Le Saux, what protection would our Graeme have against more moronic players such as Liverpool Legend (elevated by the Scouse faithful as 'God`) Robbie Fowler, who, in 1999, tried to humiliate Graeme with obscene gestures on the pitch.

There are many who will attempt to pass this off simply as laddish behaviour. However, when one considers that football`s only openly gay player, Justin Fashanu only came out after he retired from the game, and then he hanged himself, we have an idea just how far the game has to go. According to best guesstimates, 1 in 10 people is gay. There is no reason why footballers should be any different, which suggests that in the dressing room of any team, there are one or two gay men who feel that they have to hide their identities to protect their identities. It`s the behaviour of the likes of Robbie Fowler that make their lives far more difficult, not to mention that of the hordes of idiots in the terraces who latch on to this. And the clubs that let them get away with it, whilst punishing other forms of prejudice.

It would be wrong to elevate Graeme to the status of 'martyr` because he suffered an unacceptable (and erroneous) prejudice because of his choice of newspaper. We also have to cite, however, that he is a genuinely articulate bloke. His columns in The Guardian were always a joy to read. The only person who has come close is Portsmouth`s David James, another highly intelligent footballer, who uses his platform to tackle football`s involvement in wider issues, whether it`s the protection of the environment (and we`ll forgive him the mistaken rant he made about the toilets at Chelsea), or homophobia.

These are people who genuinely have something to say and are intelligent, which contrasts with Frank`s conceit that, just because he went to a good school and he is a great player, people should listen to him. In Graeme`s case, we note also that, like Pat Nevin before him (another terminal Guardian reader), Graeme has more interesting tastes in music than the ubiquitous R&B slop.

But what contrasts Graeme with Frank even more is that Graeme demonstrates an admirable self-deprecation. Of the ribbing he received from moronic players about the fact that he read a quality newspaper, he readily admits that "I stupidly reacted a bit more to it than I should have done" rather than launching into a rant of self-justification. He also jokes that he had not so much chosen the wrong career as the wrong newspaper.

The newspaper which got him into so much trouble, The Guardian, recently published a leader column entitled "in praise of Graeme Le Saux". Very amusingly, Graeme reacted by saying "Yeah, that was brilliant. Until the next day when the column was 'In praise of ... marmalade`. I sat there and thought: is this what it comes to, I'm on the same level as a breakfast condiment. That brought me down a peg or two."

That`s the self-deprecation that comes from genuine intelligence, i.e. a recognition that, far from being a messiah, a role model or even a (self-appointed) spokesperson, he was just a first-rate artisan in an area of inconsequence. But also an intelligent and articulate person whose views and his journey in life make it genuinely worth listening to him.

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Date:Friday November 9 2007
Time: 10:40AM


Graeme isn`t gay??? :)) (Just joshing)
Blue is the colour
09/11/2007 10:47:00
loved it when he clobbered Robbie Fowler and got away with it!
09/11/2007 10:52:00
never mix politics and sport - nuff said!
09/11/2007 11:05:00
Also never look to sports men for intelligence and insight. Soxy was a one off and that’s why he was made a pariah by his fellow ‘professionals’
09/11/2007 11:20:00
I'm from Pompey and come in peace....liked the article. Graeme is a class act in every way. Frank, decent player that he is, represents so much that is loathsome and tiresome about the game. He has gone from being one of the neutral's favourites to someone that we want see get his comeupance. He's a cocky so and so.
09/11/2007 11:22:00
feck off and leave our Frank alone - he'sgreat!
09/11/2007 11:26:00
BlindJak, I agree. Footballers (like fashion models) would do well to recognise that they live lives so far removed from the rest of the population, and their trade is so trivial, that they should NOT offer advice to the rest of us purely because they are well-known.
09/11/2007 11:29:00
Great article, i remember that game in 99, le-saux had a free kick to take an that ***** fowler stood in front and parted his arse cheeks, what a****. mind you tho le saux did get his own back! if i remember correctly a little tussle in our area and le saux just dropped him with an elbow! classic!! and done by a GA....... just jokin!!
09/11/2007 11:34:00
IM FROM POMPEY AND COME IN PEACE!! QUALITY!! So do we reckon ENT's gonna like this piece!!
09/11/2007 11:41:00
I think you should have split this column into 2; "Lampard- know-it-all" and "Graeme Le Saux- martyr". As for Lampard and other professional footballers, they are less likely than the average Joe to come up with relevant political conclusions. After all they're forced to live cut off from the regular chat in the grocery store and pub, and hang out with far from representative persons as far as public opinion goes. (That said, I loathe Polish worker, who while repainting our windows simply sneaked into my apartment and stole my wrist-watch and a box containing personal papers, receipt and web-logins of no use to them). So it's nothing intinsically wrong of being a tory, it's just that "lamps" probably not the best guy to explain why one should go that way.
09/11/2007 13:03:00
Maestrinho, would you say that Lamps is not the best person to shed light on our political choices?
09/11/2007 14:23:00
I'd suugest ent will have an opinion or two :-)
09/11/2007 14:30:00
yeah!! im looking forward to her comments on this one!! im of the opinion that footballers should stick to what they know, and if def aint politics, still cant believe that a footballer is a tory! guess there is a new breed of footballer now then eh! not so much of the working class anymore! aristo-****s!!
09/11/2007 15:18:00
Ok, this is complete tosh! I would suggest that Cendrowski formed this "self-conceited" opinion of Frank simply because he's a Tory, but I know better than that.....I think. I must have missed the part where Lamps declared that along with being a Tory, EVERYONE else should also be a Tory. I wasn't aware that by stating one's opinion, you are telling the world that everyone is wrong but you and that they should change immediately. It's simply ridiculous to suppose, or even think it correct, that just because men are footballers, they shouldn't have any political opinions, or opinions on anything but football, for that matter. Most of them are thinking people, just like the rest of us who are concerned with what's happening in our world. I would think worse of them if they didn't. We live in free societies, where we can say what we want, including crap like this article. We also live in a society where we don't bash others because of their political views. Furthermore, IF Lamps has an overinflated opinion of himself, how is he ANY different than EVERY OTHER FOOTBALLER out there??? Or is it just because we want our footballers to be closed-mouthed, one track minded individuals who can't string two coherent sentences together? Sorry, Cendrowski, but you let me down on this one.
09/11/2007 17:18:00
ent - I was fortunate enough to meet Frank when I was interviewing Joe Cole for a magazine, he was class personified. He knew we worked for a fans put together mag and not a top notch production but he took time out to offer his services in the future, as for his political leanings, that's his business!
09/11/2007 18:19:00
Lucky you, merlin, what I wouldn't give........!!!! "Class personified"---absolutely!
09/11/2007 18:38:00
Brilliant article, mainly in the Le Saux part. We voted Graeme or LB in Summer. I loved him, looked like Tintin, played like a hoodlum at times and had a brain that is always interesting to listen to. He actually reads books, those little square things most footballers seems to think are there to balance up the coffee table with. Homophobia in team sports are rampant in any country, it is just as bad here. Shame on them, maybe that was why a certain player opted to leave Chelsea a few years ago, another rather wellknown gay that has not chosen to come out yet.
09/11/2007 20:22:00
Still I love Lampard and think as a player he is a very intelligent player. His split-vision is the best in the game overall. I will never forget a pass he did som eyears ago when he had the ball and went into the field and without even looking up he put the ball on the shoe of a player that easily put in goal. I promise you, he never looked up -how he saw that player coming (don'ät remember who) is amystery. Pure intelligence and class. His personal political views are not to my liking, but then I like Emily and she is a republican, a Bu*****e! ;-)
09/11/2007 22:05:00
Thanks Lindy, I like you too, even though you are not a Republican. :-))
09/11/2007 22:33:00
Graeme LeSaux, one of my favourite all-time players.........Class player and a gentleman........Nuff said
10/11/2007 00:16:00
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